Revelation 21 and 22

John’s apocalypse ends with a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, John takes us back to creation, to the garden beautifully restored before everything went wrong. Genesis begins with God creating the heavens and the earth, Revelation ends with God creating a new heaven and a new earth. This new creation is a vision that combines the holy city Jerusalem, with the Temple and the Garden of Eden all rolled into one bright and shining new-creation. The New Jerusalem descending out of the clouds of the heavens to the earth is a bright city of gold shining with the glory of God. God takes up residence with His people in the city, where He will live among them and they will be His people. This reminds us of the garden, where in the cool of the evening God arrived to walk with Adam in intimate relationship sharing the joys of the creation God had made. Everything is the way it should be, restored to God’s perfect design.
This is a new garden city, where death no longer exists, no pain, crying or mourning – the curse of sin has been removed. Everything in the new creation is sparkling new; all the evil and unclean things of the old world are forever gone.
The city is described as a perfect square, 1,400 miles square, with massive high walls with twelve gates three on each side. The gates are named for the twelve tribes of Israel, they are always open, and made out of a single pearl, but they never need to be closed for safety. The city of God is flung wide open ready for the followers of the Lamb. The foundation of the walls are named for the twelve apostles of the Lamb, they are covered in precious jewels shining in brilliance. The main street of the city is paved in pure gold that is transparent as glass.
There is no temple in the city because the entire city is the temple of God, where He is continually present and His glory lights the city. There is no night, it is always bright shining day and only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life may enter the city.
The throne of God and of the Lamb is in the city, out from the throne flows the river of the water of life. On each side of the river stands the Tree of Life, which produces twelve kinds of fruit every month. Mankind is no longer barred from the garden and from the tree of Life; we can drink the life giving waters and eat from the life giving trees forever. The curse of sin is gone, sin that produces weeds, toil and death are gone and we will see God face to face.
The final words in Revelation are from Jesus, “Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”. The seventh and last blessing is this: “Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates”
As is typical with prophecies, a warning is delivered, “do not add to anything in this book or God will add to him the plagues described in this book!”
Finally Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon”. And John says, Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Revelation 20

Revelation 20 continues John’s vision of the Rider of the White horse coming with His heavenly armies. The beast and the kings of the earth gather to make war against Jesus and His followers, but before the battle can even begin they are defeated by the Word of God. Chapter 20 begins with John seeing an angel descend from heaven with a huge chain and a key to the Abyss. The Angel seizes the dragon, Satan, who is tied up and sealed away for 1,000 years.

We are told that Satan is locked away so that so he could not deceive the nations for one thousand years, then he will be released for a short time. We are reminded of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 12; they accuse Jesus of healing and casting out demons by calling on Satan. Jesus responds with saying Satan cannot cast out Satan, a kingdom divided cannot stand. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you. How else can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house.”

The binding of Satan is a little less confusing if we think of binding as limiting Satan’s power rather than stopping it completely, much like the strong man is tied up while his house is being robbed only to be released later. In Follow the Lamb, Doug Webster states that “The binding of Satan means that the church is free to ‘make disciples of all nations’. Satan’s power is checked by the spirit of Christ; his demonic influence is curtailed”.

Then John sees into heaven again, he sees the thrones, the elders, the souls of the martyrs and all those who refused to worship the beast reigning with Christ for one thousand years. These are all those who take part in the first resurrection, those are the saints who are joined with Christ, the followers of the Lamb. They will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

When a thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison, and he will go out to the four corners of the earth to Gog and Magog to bring them together for the battle against the saints and the beloved city. We have read this same scene before, Rev. 16:14 – the demons go out to gather the kings of the earth for the great battle; Rev 17:14 – the kings make war with the Lamb and Rev 19:19 the beast and kings make war against the Rider on the white horse and His army. Every time God defeats Satan and his followers, fire comes down from heaven and completely destroys them all. This is what many commentators refer to as recapitulation; a retelling of the narrative from different points of view with different emphasis, but the same story-line.

What is surprising and familiar about this battle is that no fighting takes place, before Satan and his minions can attack God destroys them with fire from heaven, which is conveyed in Rev. 19 as killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse – The Word of God. Once again the complete and total destruction of evil is complete, Satan, the beast, the false prophet, the Dragon,  evil by every name are all are cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, to be tormented forever.

The last scene of Revelation 20 is of the Great White Throne, John sees the heavens and earth unfold, he sees God’s throne, with the dead great and small standing before the throne. The books are opened, the image is like a courtroom before a judge, no one escapes, and all are judged by what is written in the books, according to their deeds. The final scene in this drama is of everyone who has ever lived on earth being judged, and then God throws death and Hades into the lake of fire. The message is clear; anyone whose name was not written in the Book of Life will received the consequences of their own choices and their ultimate destiny, the lake of fire.